MIAMI, June 30, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The National Parkinson Foundation (NPF) has awarded more than $1 million dollars in clinical research projects in 2011. Through NPF’s individual investigators awards program, NPF is supporting work to advance three key areas of Parkinson’s disease (PD): 1) an advanced biomarker study, 2) a clinical trial to treat memory impairment, and 3) a study of the effectiveness of a treatment for sleep apnea in PD.
“Each of these projects can have an immediate impact on the lives of Parkinson’s disease patients, from a novel approach to developing a new biomarker to treatments for two important non-motor symptoms,” said Joyce Oberdorf, NPF’s President and CEO. “Both sleep issues and cognition are important, but often overlooked, contributors to the burden of the disease.”
Under the direction of the Clinical and Scientific Advisory Board (CSAB), NPF supports leading-edge research conducted by the top neurological experts at its 43 Centers of Excellence worldwide. These research awards will support three novel clinical investigations at Centers of Excellence in the United States and Canada.
NPF funded the following two-year clinical research grants:
1. MRI Biomarkers for Motor and Non-Motor Manifestations of Parkinson’s Disease: Martin McKeown, MD, and Silke Cresswell, MD, Pacific Parkinson’s Research Center, University of British Columbia. This study will examine Parkinson’s disease patients to measure the shapes of deep structures in the brain; the goal is to develop a biomarker for Parkinson’s. This new technique combines advances in computing power with established (and inexpensive) imaging techniques to provide greater insight. Drs. McKeown and Cresswell hope to develop a reliable method to assess overall disease severity and this sophisticated technique could be replicated at hospitals anywhere.
2. Sleep Disordered Breathing and its Impact on Cognitive Performance and Quality of Life in Parkinson’s Disease: Poor sleep affects the quality of life for people with PD, but there is also evidence that it may also contribute to decreased cognition. This study will evaluate the prevalence of sleep disordered breathing (SDB) and test the effectiveness of a common SDB treatment in people with Parkinson’s. Sleep disturbance in PD has been highlighted as not only having a measurable impact on quality of life, but also contributing to trauma and injury associated with reduced vigilance due to fatigue.
3. Sleep and Learn with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) in Parkinson’s Disease: M. Felice Ghilardi, MD, New York University Medical School. Motor learning involves practicing a task followed by forming a habit—a short-cut in the brain to do a complex motion. This study will investigate this process and how it is affected by PD. Dr. Ghilardi will study motor learning in people with PD and then attempt to improve motor learning by stimulating neurons using TMS. TMS therapy has been shown to activate neurons in the brain and can be targeted to those associated with motor learning. If this technique works, it could be applied to reinforce important motor tasks associated with falls prevention, for example.